Canberra’s Declan Wilson held off a strong field to score a break through victory in the ITU New Plymouth World Cup today after Gillian Backhouse had earlier produced a strong “final hit out” for next month’s Commonwealth Games.
In an eventful weekend in Taranaki, Commonwealth Games representative Luke Willian was forced to withdraw from the race as a precaution after he suffered a small cut to his foot walking on the beach yesterday.
Triathlon Australia's National Performance Director Justin Drew said: "Luke withdrew so he could resume normal training this week in Brisbane, so as not to disrupt his Games preparation."
And Mooloolaba World Cup winner Emma Jeffcoat bravely picked herself up off the road to finish 16th in the women’s race despite a fall on the bike, negotiating a tricky hairpin bend.
But for Wilson it was a case of “fortune favours the brave” when he sped out of T2 in hot pursuit of breakaway bike leader and training partner Ryan Bailie to dominate the five-kilometre run.
Wilson, an Under 23 World Championship bronze medallist in 2013, has been in the triathlon wilderness in recent years but a move to Jamie Turner, coach at Triathlon Australia’s International Performance Centre in Wollongong, last October, has turned his career around.
Turner said Wilson would be the first to admit that some of his decisions over the past four years could have been better and that he hadn’t taken the best options.
Turner rang TA’s National Performance Director Justin Drew last year to get linked into Wilson, believing he could make a difference.
“Declan wanted to know in return whether I genuinely wanted to coach him and I told him I thought he had great ability and I could offer him an environment of good habits and to come and explore our environment, a place to learn off others and an osmosis that can also work the other way as well, which will all allow you to perform better,” said Turner.
“He has matured and empowered himself, going about his business with urgency and intent and more intent than I’ve seen in him before.”
It was Rio Olympian Bailie who broke away on the bike and who tried to go with his younger training partner and hung tough to sixth finish, with Turner saying: “It was nice to see the boys go off the front and to back themselves; that’s how these races are won and by the best athletes.”
Wilson broke away on the first lap of the five-kilometre run, admitting: “I just wanted to conserve as much energy as I could on the bike and to see how much I had on the run and I’m really happy to come away with the win … this day has been a long time coming.”
Before his first win since June 2016 Wilson’s last eight starts had seen him finish 8th, 14th, 20th, 34th, a DNF, 31st, 37th and 12th.
With the bit between his teeth, Wilson opened up a 10 second lead at the end of the first of three 1.6km laps and as hard as the talented chase pack tried, they could not peg him back.
Wilson clocked 58 minutes 20 seconds to beat the fast finishing Kiwi Sam Ward (58:22) and the USA’s Kevin McDowell (58:24), with Canadian Commonwealth Games pair Tyler Mislawchuk (58.25) Matthew Sharpe (58.26) fourth and fifth and Bailie (58.33) sixth with other Australians Marcel Walkington eighth (58.43), Brandon Copeland 9th (58.49), Dan Coleman 22nd (1:00.19), Callum McClusky 22nd (1:01.08) and Kye Wilde 33rd (1:02.33).
The women’s race saw Backhouse in touch the whole race with team mate and WTS Abu Dhabi bronze medallist Natalie Van Coevorden and Jeffcoat (before her fall) all driving hard on the bike.
Backhouse finished a close-up sixth with the USA’s Kirsten Kasper keeping the American success rate on track winning in 1:03.20 from Kiwi Commonwealth Games hopeful Nicole Van der Kaay second (1:03.28) and Belgium’s Claire Michel third (1:03.37) with Backhouse sixth (1:03.53), Van Coevorden 10th (1:0.12), Jeffcoat 16th (1:05.34) and Annabel White 26th (1:08.28).
“I’ve always wanted to come and do New Plymouth, so it was a good opportunity,” said Backhouse who really enjoys racing World Cups.
“But the number one reason I was here today was to get a really good hard final hit out before the Games which I did today.
“I was happy with that, I managed to push myself in the swim, attack the bike, and really push myself on the run.
“The swim was on and as I expected there were quite a few good swimmers; I’m quite a strong swimmer so I always knew I was going to be up there.
“There was quite a chase coming out of the swim, a long hard run off the sand and into transition and on to the bike pack.
“I really pushed it on the first lap of the bike; (in fact) everybody was really pushing it and it was quite a big hill so by the time we got to the top everyone was fairly gassed.
“During the second and third laps I settled into the bike a bit more and on the fourth lap of the bike I knew I wanted to lead into T2 (which I did) but on top of the hill on the final lap I attacked and got a little gap.
“Then Kirsten (Kasper) who has been riding really well lately, got them back on to my wheel, down the hill and then at the bottom of the hill where there is another technical S bend.
“I really backed myself to corner really well and get a gap on the field for the final kilometre but they got back on to me all the way to T2.”
Earlier today Newcastle's Lorcan Redmond claimed the Junior Oceania Championship from Sydney brothers Luke and Jayden Schofield making it a clean sweep of the podium for Australia. Redmond had to do it the hard way,on a borrowed bike courtesy of Mitchell Cycles New Plymouth after his bike suffered a crack en-route from Sydney and a delay overnight in Auckland.
Sunshine Coast Tri Academy's 18-year-old Romy Wolstencroft won the bronze medal in the Junior Oceania Championship Womens event behind New Zealand pair Hannah Knighton and Ari Graham.
Congratulations to Australian pair Josh Ferris (Panthers Tri Club, NSW) and Charlotte Derbyshire (Meteors/Tempo Systems, SA) who are two of four nominations for triathlon in this year's Youth Olympic Games in Argentina joining New Zealand pair Dylan McCullough and Brea Roderick following this morning's Oceania Championships in New Plymouth.